Premiere season is one to cherish as a skier. It's the time of year where we reconnect with friends we haven't seen since the lifts stopped turning and as Josh Berman noted, "celebrate the end of summer and winter to come." The days before a world premiere are quite possibly the most hectic of the year, however I was able to catch Berman on the phone this week to talk about Level 1's new film, Small World.
EA: Level 1 is quickly approaching the release of your 16th film, what started it all back in 1999?
JB: I was studying filmmaking and photography at Dartmouth when I suffered a knee injury. At that point I picked up a camera and decided to make a movie with my friends. It just happened that my friends were some of the most up and coming talented skiers in the world, and that turned into our first film. The knee never got better, but the movies did and 16 years later here I am.
What gave you the idea to release Small World Instagram teasers vs. a more traditional trailer?
It's a tradition that trailers have been released pretty early on in the summer when the films became available for pre-order on DVD and Blu-ray. Obviously hard copy sales slowed down a lot over the past couple years as digital has begun to dominate. This year it didn't really make sense to release the teasers two or three months before the movie is actually available. So when the movie becomes available on September 21st through Vimeo, we're going to launch the trailer that day. And convert that excitement to people actually buying the movie.
Instagram has very quickly become our most direct and successful way to put content out for users and get engagement out of it. With our decision to not release the traditional trailer, we also wanted to make sure we stayed relevant and remind everyone that we are making a movie this year. I know a lot of other production companies are not making a film this year and we didn't want to completely fall off of the radar- so releasing clips on a daily basis through instagram has been our way to stay in people's eyes and minds.
It's also an awesome way for content that strategically may not have a place in the trailer or not even be in the movie, but we still want to get it out there for people to see it.
How did you come up with the name Small World? Did you go into filming with the idea to call the project that or did it come from the direction things took during filming?
A little of both. Small World was one of the titles that we were discussing late last fall before production for the movie actually started. As we got into the season it became the most relevant of our options, so we just took the ball and ran with it.
Jeremy Pancras. Erik Seo photo.
Is there anything people should be looking out for in this movie that's different from previous releases?Absolutely, one thing I'm really excited about with this year's movie is that we've stepped away from what's become the traditional athlete-segment based project. This year's movie is oriented around trips and destinations. As a filmmaker I think I can speak for our whole production crew that it allows us to create more of a vibe and tell a few more stories as well as allow for more creativity on the production side.
Did what seemed like a lack of snow everywhere but the East Coast and Japan throw you guys many curve balls this season?
Always- even in the best snow years you're going to run into situations where plans are going to fall apart cause it's not snowing when and where you need it to. This year, we had a crew who spent a majority of the season in British Columbia. January ended up being pretty fantastic, we actually had a pretty cool backcountry pillows part from early January and unfortunately that was kind of the highlight of the season up there and it was low tide from there on out. Our crew was posted up there waiting, and everybody thought 'it's been dry and warm for so long, next week it's going to snow'. Unfortunately it never snowed and we ended up wasting a bit of time and money waiting on something that never happened. We also had a bunch of park shoot plans in the Pacific Northwest and a few fell apart because it was as warm and dry as it gets up there.
Will Berman. Erik Seo photo.
Is it difficult to repeatedly see 'your riders' achieve 'stardom' only to move on to other projects?
It's a blessing and a curse. You know, working with riders over the course of however many years that you do, you develop relationships and one of the things as a filmmaker that I like best about this job is my personal relationships with the people I work with. I'd consider a vast majority of them to be some of my closest friends. So yes, when they move onto other projects and they aren't working with you as they did in the past, it's definitely disappointing but at the same time it's a necessary part of the process. In order to grow our crew and find new talent, you have to have holes to fill. If we worked with every single person we have that's still relevant and still doing things, we'd probably have a roster of 30-40 people and it would never give us the opportunity to work with new riders. Level 1 has been always been known for breaking new people into the scene, and you can't do that without making changes.
On the other side, Level 1 consistently hosts riders on the breakthrough, who should viewers be looking out for in Small World?
[Not to blow all the surprises] but there's definitely a few standouts this year for sure with some guys we haven't really done much with in the past. One of the biggest names is Sämi Ortlieb, a kid from Switzerland who has been on our radar for the past few years as someone who has the ability to do anything and everything, which is not very common in this day and age. When we got a chance to finally give him some opportunities, he absolutely crushed it and we're really excited. Mitchell Brower, who won superunknown two years ago, became a part of the crew this year and absolutely slaughtered it. He impressed the hell out of us pretty much everywhere we went and has a lot to show for it. Noah Albaladejo who I've been watching for years and has been on my personal radar is one of the kids coming up with some of the best style in the game. He's been working with us a bunch and we're really really excited with what he has going on.
When will Small World be available to the public?
We are doing a release exclusively at first through Vimeo on Monday, September 21st. We're working with Vimeo to do a one-month exclusive, where it's available only on Vimeo, until October 21st where it will kick off on other digital platforms. We're pretty excited about it because working with Vimeo is a much quicker and simpler process. This is the earliest we will have ever released a film publicly- even a couple years ago it was the second week of October, and that was relatively speaking early. For us to push into the third week of September with a digital release is huge. There isn't the red tape and there aren't all the hurdles that you necessarily have to go through working with your typical distribution outlets and platforms, Vimeo is really direct to consumer from producer. All we have to do is upload a video and fill out a form and push some buttons, then boom it's live- which is really cool and I feel strongly that it will be the future of digital film distribution.
Wednesday, September 16th - Salt Lake City, UT (W/ 4FRNT's "Shaping Skiing")
Saturday, September 26th - Montreal, QC - IF3 Festival
Friday, October 2nd - Aspen, CO